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BetterRiders Excel at NV Mountain Bike Championships!

Mountain Bike Racing article by BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton

Wow, what a week! On Thursday and Friday (Jan. 17-18) I did a private skills camp the AFD Racing team who had driven all the way down from Canada and on Saturday and Sunday I videoed and did some race coaching with students from previous camps. Our students had a great weekend with a lot of state championships, podium finishes and personal bests!

Saturday was the Super D race The first race the weekend was the Super D down Boy Scout to Girl Scout, one of my favorite trail combos (a combo he use a lot in our downhill camps, including the one Merrick took from us last year). Merrick Golz was racing in his first super D so they forced him to race in the category 2 division and he crushed it! Merrick not only won category 2 but he had the fastest time of the day of all categories beating the fastest pro time by 7.5 seconds! The Pro was division was won by BetterRide alumnus Joy Martin with BetterRide coach and camp alumnus Jackie Harmony in second.

The downhill race was down Snake Back with the pros and experts doing Poop Chute and the rest of the field doing the go around. The first class to go down the course  was Jr. Men 14 and under and it was won by  Kendall Mclean of  AFD RACING from that week’s camp!  The last race of the day was the chainless race and it was won by BetterRide camp alumnus Cody Kelly (who also took third in the Pro race, his first pro race ever!).  There were a lot of podiums finishes and victories for our students in the races in between too (see results below)!

Again, wow! Feels great to see so many of our students working hard and reaching their mountain biking goals!

BetterRiders results at the Nevada State Championship Gravity race:

Sat. Super D

Cat 2 Men 19-29

1. Merrick Golz in his first Super D race where they forced him to race Cat 2 (beat the fastest pro man by 7.5 seconds!)

Pro Women:

1 Joy Martin
2. Jackie Harmony Pivot Cycles

Pro men

9. Dante Harmony, Pivot Cycles

Downhill
Pro women:
1. Jackie Harmony, Pivot Cycles
3. Adrienne Schneider
4. Joy Martin

 

Pro Women's Podium

Pro men
3. Cody Kelly (first pro race!) Specialized Gravity
7. Jonny Widen TLD/5.10
11. Chris Higgerson
15. Riley Mueller
16. Christian Wright  Specialized Gravity
20 Lucas Cowan

 

Pro Men DH Podium

Jr. Men 14 and under
1. Kendall Mclean AFD RACING from weekends camp

Cat 2 women 15-18
1. Kirby McleAN  AFD racing from camp

Cat 2 men 15-18
4. Matthew Mclean, AFD Racing
7. Tom Breadmore, AFD Racing

10. Carter Paschinski, AFD Racing
Cat 1 men 15-16
1. Tyler Krenek,  SuperCross Fly racing

Cat 1 Men 17-18
1 Mckay Vezina (won by 15 seconds, would of been 3rd in pro!)
3. Matt Branney
5. Galen Carter, Transition Bikes
7 Tanner Hart,  Lake Town Bikes

Open men

3 Mike Fucci, All Mtn Cyclery
9 Syd Jacklin, AFD racing

Cat 1 men 30-39
3. Aaron Polly,  Gnar Gnar Tours.com
12 Joe Dodds,  Neverrest

Chainless DH

Open Women
1. Jackie Harmony, Pivot Cycles

Open men
1. Cody Kelly
2 Graeme Pitts
4 Jon Widen
6 Dante Harmony, Pivot Cycles
8 Riley Mueller

 

Chainless Downhill Podium

How To Use Your Imagination To Mountain Bike Better!

How to mountain bike article by BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton

Your imagination is more powerful than you think it is and it can help you greatly improve your mountain bike skills! As a young snowboard racer I thought that the strongest/bravest/most naturally athletic person won, imagery was hocus pocus bs! Turns out, imagery is one of the most powerful learning tools that you are equipped with. Fortunately as a mountain bike racer I started to use imagery and it played a big role in helping me to not only mountain bike better but also consistently perform at my best.

If you are one of our skills progression students you know how much we stress imagery and have read the article I wrote on imagery. If you haven’t read the article or are still doubtful of the benefits of imagery please watch this short video and read the article below! (recommended by BetterRide student, Gregg Austensen)

Imagery article:

USING IMAGERY (VISUALIZATION) FOR MOUNTAIN BIKE RACING SUCCESS

Imagery or visualization is a great way to improve your riding and/or racing. Imagery has been proven in many studies to be more effective than actual practice in improving skill in sports. When using imagery you have no fear, can practice absolutely perfectly, can practice without fatiguing and simply rewind and correct any mistakes. Other than the fact that you won’t be physically tired from imagery your body can not tell the difference between imaging and actually doing. Consistent imagery will make a bigger difference in your riding than actually doing the drills I teach if you spend 20 minutes twice a week working on it. So add 40 minutes a week of imagery to your training program

Imagery can also help you improve and keep a positive attitude when weather or injury prevents you from riding.

I’m sure you have noticed that the most skillful or strongest rider doesn’t always win. This is because at the higher levels of competition most competitors have about the same skill. Winning races is a mental war and often a more prepared, focused and confident competitor will beat someone with slightly more “skill”. I have a few friends who are amazing bike handlers, definitely better bike handers than I, but I usually manage to beat them on race day. The key to winning any competition is being able to have a “peak” performance during competition. Consistently performing at your peak is easier said than done. One way to improve your consistency is to imagine or “visualize” you runs. Imagining is a very important skill and just like any other skill the more you practice it the better you get. If you haven’t imagined before or your imaging needs some improvement work on the information below.

What to Imagine (this isn’t just for racers if you don’t just substitute the word ride for race in the exercises below).

1. How you feel mentally in the start, during the race, as you cross the finish line and when the race is over: excited, strong, confident, fast, elation after winning, etc.

2. How you feel physically at the start, during the race, as you cross the finish line and when the race is over: muscles relaxed your breathing, lactic burn in legs, steering and balance movements, absorbing shocks, etc.

3. What your eyes are focusing on when you are at the start, during the race, as you cross the finish line and when the race is over: looking ahead, reference points, course conditions, etc.

4. What you hear (or don’t hear) at the start, during the race, as you cross the finish line and when the race is over: wind rushing by, crowd noise, bike noise, and announcer screaming that you have just taken over the lead! (I recall Myles Rockwell saying that he imaged the announcer saying that prior to winning the Kamikaze years ago), etc.

5. Imaging can also be used to master a new skill and break bad habits. To do this imagine doing the particular skill perfectly using both first person and third person views. Start by imaging riding on a easy, predictable surface such as pavement then an easy trail, working your way up to doing it on a challenging section of trail.

How to Imagine

1. Imagine from 1st person, you are actually racing the course.
2. Imagine from 3rd person, you are watching yourself.
3. Imagine flawless runs, if you make a mistake back up and correct it.
4. Imagine in slow motion to learn new skills or master a difficult section.
5. Always imagine positive performances, feelings and thoughts.

How to Get Started

1. Imagine riding the 1st “section” (the 1st fourth or fifth of the trail, start new sections at major changes in terrain) of your favorite trail. Practice until your experience everything you experience on an actual run. For skills work on one skill three times then work on another skill three times (use the rule of three when visualizing too)

2. Start adding sections until you can imagine an entire 5-6 minute run.

3. Time your imaging sessions and compare their times to actual times on course. If your imaging is faster than real life you may being using to few reference points (physical features such as big rocks, stumps, ruts, or trees that you use to keep your bearing on the course (more on the use of reference points in my course inspection article) and skipping parts of the course or you might not be imaging all the steps it takes (braking, shifting, pedaling, jumping gaps) to get down the course. If your imaging is slower than real life you either have too many reference points and you’re getting bogged down on details that you don’t notice when racing or you don’t have enough RPs and are getting lost on the course. Figure out why you are not getting similar times and make corrections so you can image a perfect, fast race before race day.

Don’t be discouraged if you struggle with this at first. Imaging is a learned skill and gets better with practice. Mastering imagery will greatly improve your riding and/or racing.

The $1.99 Investment That Will Greatly Improve Your Mountain Biking!

The $1.99 Investment That Will Greatly Improve Your Mountain Biking!

By: BetterRide Coach Andy Winohradsky

Most of us spend thousands of dollars on our bikes, equipment, fitness, nutrition, you name it, in order to have fun riding bikes and becoming better at it.  Let’s face it, whether you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior or you just want to start living a bit more healthy lifestyle and figure MTB’ing would be a good way to help do it, being able to improve your skill on the bike makes the whole deal a lot more enjoyable. Whether you’re trying to get faster or simply trying to not-crash as much.

Arguably, all of the above-mentioned stuff does help us to have a good time on our mountain bikes as well as aid our ability to ride.  (Hey, I like nice bikes and gear and good food just as much as the next guy!)  But there are a lot of things out there that very few riders do that will drastically elevate their riding levels.  Some are big undertakings, some are tiny and simple.  I believe that one thing riders need to do if they’re serious about learning is to take some formal instruction, obviously.  Another thing?  Start using the following piece of equipment: its super inexpensive; extremely accessible; user friendly; portable; durable; and not only important, but I’m going to say MANDATORY, if you want to really improve your riding…

Ready?!?!  (drum roll)…

Start keeping a Riding Log.

A riding log, riding journal, whatever you want to call it…  For $1.99 at your local Walgreen’s, you can pick up one of the greatest pieces of mountain bike gear/equipment known to man.

What?!?!  Read on…

In pretty much every endeavor in life that people are half-way serious about, they keep a written record of what’s going on: business; fitness training; expenses; heck, many of us keep “diaries” of our extremely interesting and dramatic personal lives.

If you’re reading this, you’re fairly serious about improving your MTB skills, so why wouldn’t use this incredibly useful tool in this important area of your life?  And, yes, it is important.  Physical and mental health are paramount to life-happiness. (and a MTB is way cheaper then therapy…)

And, who can benefit from this?  EVERYBODY!  Whether you are brand new to riding or a pro racer, you need to do this if really want to improve on the bike.

So how do we go about doing this riding log thing and WHY?

Let’s talk about the “WHY”, first.  When I work with people on fitness training, the first thing that I have them do is to start keeping a food journal (you’re not serious about fitness unless you’re also adequately addressing nutrition).  Everything that passes their lips, for at least three days, has to be written down.  Am I interested in their diet and eating habits? Of course I am.  But, invariably, what happens is that people will alter their eating habits when they have to write everything down, and they admit this.  How many calories did you take in while doing laps of the free samples at Whole Foods after your ride?  Oh, never used to count those, huh?  Or, when you cooked dinner, and you “tested” every dish…repeatedly…  And, those seven pieces of your kid’s Halloween candy you snatched throughout the day?  A handful of chips…or three?  A post-ride beer…or three?

In this case, educating clients on nutrition is important, but more importantly and what I find extremely useful with the food journal is that clients become AWARE of what they are actually doing.  Around 800 -1000 extra (and “empty”) calories a day can happen real quick if you’re just unconsciously shoving crap in your face all day long.  The same holds true for riding bikes: by having to sit down and think about what happened on your ride; by having to PROCESS things and write (or type) them down, you become far more engaged in what actually happened out there on the trail.  You become consciously AWARE of your riding.

Most of us aren’t very aware of our riding, it happens on the trail and then it’s gone!  Out there on the trail, during our ride, we win some, we lose some, we scare ourselves a bit…and then we’re in the car, driving home, on the phone asking about what we need to pick up for dinner or speeding through traffic to try to squeeze in a shower and rush off to meet with a client or grabbing the kids from practice or whatever…

Then, on our next ride we go out and make the same exact mistakes again!  I’ve hit the same exact bad line, then hit the same exact rock and crashed in the same exact place on a few occasions – lots of this comes from learning the hard way… And, maybe worse, any “victories” that we may have had on the previous ride—opportunities to learn and improve—were lost because we never took the time to commit these things to memory; to process the techniques that worked; to understand WHY we succeeded.

Keeping a riding log will SLOW YOU DOWN and force you to become much more AWARE and CONSCIOUS of you’re riding – this is how you will learn most effectively.

What if you really don’t know squat about riding technique?  (Well, take a camp!) But, what if you’re brand new to the whole thing? You don’t understand terms, techniques…Nada!  In that case, your riding log will probably start to accumulate a lot of questions, but these questions will become more and more specific.  You’ll understand that certain types of trail conditions give you more problems then others, you’ll notice certain things you feel pretty comfortable on.  You’ll start to be able to create similarities with other sports and other activities in life.  Often, new students will describe certain things that give them problems, certain types of crashes they’ve had as well as areas where they feel confident, and without ever seeing them ride, or seeing the specific trail feature that they’re talking about, I have a pretty good idea where their issues lie and how to remedy them.  Sometimes students say, “I don’t know, I suck everywhere…”  Well, don’t worry, I can help you, too.  The previous student is a lot further along with their awareness of their riding then the latter, and thus, a lot nearer to improvement.  Become the previous student.

In my camps, I stress the riding log HUGE with my students.  If you’ve just received instruction, you now have a whole new bag of tricks!  These are tools that you are not entirely familiar with yet, so the opportunities for learning in the riding immediately following (and not so immediate) the instruction will be immense!  Process it!  Write it down!

What if you’ve been at the game forever?  Say you’ve been riding for 35+ years, racing professionally for 15 of those (kinda semi-retired), you’ve worked as a factory race team mechanic, years of bike shop experience, built trails for a living, shot photos and written articles for magazines and have been a professional MTB instructor and coach for the past 5 years?  What could a person like that (me) possibly learn by keeping a riding log?  Hasn’t the ship already sailed?  Haven’t I probably done it all and seen it all? There isn’t much else that I’m going to learn at this point?  Isn’t it time for me to let the riding regress and take up golf?  Haven’t I hit my head enough times that it doesn’t really retain much anymore, anyway?   The answer:

Not even close.  I learn something or at least confirm something new EVERY TIME I RIDE!  I’ve recently started keeping riding logs again and it has helped my riding tremendously!  Even at this point in my riding life!  During my serious racing years, I had volumes upon volumes of riding/racing records and logs.  Admittedly, for a bunch of years I slacked on the riding logs  (the semi-retired racer guy decided he didn’t need them anymore).  I could go into detail about my last month of riding and the awesome stuff that I’ve come up with, but I’ll just say that I pick up on something new every time I’m out. By breaking it down, I come up with the real reasons why something either worked or didn’t, as opposed to saying, “Ah, I’m just a little rusty…” or “…haven’t ridden there in a long time…” and on the other side, crediting successes to, “…just felt good today…” or “…traction was perfect, could do no wrong…”

Keeping logs again has helped my MTB, my motocross, my dirt jumping, my coaching and instructing.  It’s helped me make advances in the types of off the bike training that are really relevant to riding. My bike riding logs will probably even help my snowboarding…if it ever snows!

So what the heck should you write down in your log, specifically?  Well, that’s up to you.  An entry doesn’t have to be super detailed or ten pages long.  Don’t make it such a stressful hassle that you give it up because you dread it so much that it ruins your day.  Definitely write down your “victories”, the positive learning experiences.  When you have success on the trail, break it down: why were you successful, what techniques did you use (providing that they were proper techniques)?  If that’s all you enter, good enough!  Just by processing that event and recording it, you’ll “re-live” it a bunch of times.  Repetition is a huge part of learning.   Now, you are also conscious of why you had success.  BAM!  You just quite thoroughly learned something!  Focus on the positive.

As far as dealing with negative experiences (crashes, riding like crap) turn them into steps that you can take to move into a positive direction.  Know why that crash happened: what did you do wrong?  What should you have done?  You may come up with more questions then answers if you are new to riding (or even not-so-new), but at least you are being proactive, and the answers to the questions are out there.

In my racing days, my logs were incredibly detailed: nutrition, training, how I practiced at races, how I traveled, equipment settings…  Lately, not so much; mainly focusing on one prominent issue per ride.  Sometimes super crazy detailed bike-dork stuff like suspension settings in relation to body position, line choice and riding style.  Sometimes simply noting that I felt tight and didn’t warm up and “feel it” until an hour into the ride.  This reminded me that I hadn’t been stretching and hitting the foam roller enough… and now I am!  But if I wouldn’t have sat down to write and “taken note” on how old I felt at the start of my rides… I would have mentally been on to something else as soon as I got off the bike instead of making it a point to take care of myself.  Awareness…

So, like anything else, start simple, start slow, but make this a habit!  I guarantee it will pay off, big-time!

 

The Dark Side of Yoga for Mountain Bikers (and How to Avoid it)

Article by Gene Hamilton

I have written plenty of times about the many benefits of my on-again, off-again yoga practice but failed to mention the dark side (and why my practice has been sporadic over the last 14 years). I have stressed going to a yoga studio with dedicated yoga teachers, not doing what I call “gym yoga” with 30 students and one teacher with limited experience, but even well meaning, dedicated teachers are human and make mistakes.

My first yoga experience was in 1998 in Boulder, Colorado. My friend Rusty was getting into yoga and he convinced me to go to a class at the YMCA. He used the, “not only is great for you, there are a lot of pretty girls there” approach that tends to work on single men. Well, there were a lot of pretty girls there and an instructor who sat way at the end of the room and basically did his own yoga practice while explaining to us what to do (not what I would call a good instructor). He never walked around the room watching and correcting our form, which is fundamental to yoga. Men, especially when there are four or five of them in a room with 25 women, are rather competitive so I wanted to do everything the teacher and my friend Rusty were doing. Unfortunately, I was cheating, rounding my lower back when I should of been hinging at the hips and various other ways to allow my unflexable body to bend like the instructor’s (in my eyes). Since the instructor did not walk around the room and observe us I never knew I was doing poses incorrectly. One day I found out just how incorrectly I was doing things when I heard an audible pop in my lower back and felt a sudden pain there. Long story short,  I stopped doing yoga that day and spent two weeks getting massage therapy and visiting the chiropractor to fix my back.

Two years later when I lived in Fruita, Colorado I discovered a wonderful yoga studio ran by a woman in her late sixties. She had studied under B. K. S. Iyengar, founder of Iyenger Yoga and was, as described by a  friend of mine “old school” in how strict she was (my nickname for her was the Yoga Nazi, after the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld). After three weeks of doing four to five yoga classes a week I was really feeling good and was starting to really enjoy yoga. Then one day in class we were focusing on twists to open up our hips and backs and she came up behind me and in her Austrian accent said, “Why are you so stiff Gene, you are too young to be so stiff!” and then she powerfully twisted me further and again, snap, a muscle let go in my back. Another round of chiropractor and massage therapist visits. This time I tentatively returned to yoga just didn’t take classes that she taught, but often still felt more back pain after yoga than before, I honestly thought this was part of the process, no pain, no gain.

I repeated this on-again, off-again practice for the next 11 years or so until last winter when I started doing yoga regularly. This time, with a little investigation I found more enlightened yoga instructors. They would say things like, “find the softness in the pose”, “relax and breathe, don’t strain” and perhaps the best thing to tell students, “it is your practice, go only to the edge of discomfort where you can still breathe”. This was amazing, as I found that if I stayed at the edge of discomfort and used my breathe  I could slowly open up my body much deeper than when I tried to force it! I was also fortunate enough to get a few private lessons with BetterRides’ Communications Director who had just gotten back from yoga teacher training in Thailand. She explained some really basic concepts of how to stand correctly and hold poses correctly as well as the goal of many common poses (why we are doing this pose, and how it will look and feel when I am able to do it really well). Then one day I showed up to yoga class and I was the only student! Rather than cancel the class the instructor gave me a private lesson and really focused on how I could and could not move. She was the first instructor to tell me to only go so far in certain forward folds and to bend my knees in forward folds (that are designed to be done with straight legs) where I was curving my lower back instead of hinging. She also told me to sit on a folded blanket to tilt my hips forward when doing seated forward folds (just like tilting my saddle forward so I can hinge at the hips better on my bike!). When I went to Bali this summer many of the instructors reinforced these same techniques. Being able to bend my knees a little and focusing on bringing my chest to my thighs made yoga completely pain free for me! This allowed me to really open up my body!

Unfortunately, my favorite yoga instructor, here in Tempe moved away so I have been searching for some new instructors. My search brought me to a Yin Yoga class after a short, but great ride on South Mountain. As a matter of fact it was last Wednesday, the day after I published my “Mountain Biking and Back Pain: How to Prevent it and Cure it” article. Also, a few days after I aware of my breath throughout an entire yoga class (a huge breakthrough for me). Halfway through a great class while blissfully meditating in a seated forward fold the instructor starts pushing on my lower back to deepen my stretch. My first thought was to yell “STOP!”, but I didn’t want to interrupt the others in the class and thought that maybe with all the classes I had taken recently my back was actually hinged (instead of bent) and he was helping me hinge further. Nope, after the class my lower back was starting to hurt and by the time I rode my bike home it was really hurting!

Well, I knew this was a muscle pull, not tight myofasica, but I figured some light foam rolling would help so I spent 20-30 minutes working on getting my lower back to relax. Then I had to continue boxing up my bike for my flight to Austin the next day. As you can imagine sitting on a plane for two hours and hauling my bike box around airports, into rental cars and into my hotel wasn’t the best therapy for a pulled muscle, but there were eight eager students excited to be coached the next day. After Friday’s coaching my back didn’t feel any worse, still hurt a little from the pulled muscle but not too bad. I rolled on my tennis balls for a half hour and it felt a little better. Repeated the same routine on Saturday and felt great on Sunday morning. The Students were stoked, it looked like the rain was going to hold off and I was looking forward to coaching. Then I bent down to tie my shoe and wham! That pulled muscle lit up and still hurts like heck today, two days, one massage and one chiropractor visit later.

How can you benefit from this cautionary tale? Take your time to find good, supportive yoga instructors and if you don’t want harsh physical adjustments tell the instructor before the class (the best ones will usually ask first but many, like mine the other day don’t ask). I still love yoga and will continue to do it but I won’t think twice about telling an instructor to get his hands off me, even it disrupts the whole class. I know he meant well but he should of asked and regardless I should of told him to stop. My failure to yell stop is going to cost me a week or two of lost work and a week or two of not enjoying my life and losing what little fitness I regained this fall. Oh, and hundreds of dollars in chiropractor and massage therapy bills. Please learn from my mistake!